[OFFSET Dublin] Ivan Cash invites us into his studio
Ivan Cash is an award-winning interactive artist, film director, and founder of Cash Studios. His work engages culture, celebrates human connection, and is loved by the internet.
Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from, where you grew up and how you got here? What was your entry point into the industry?
I grew up in a small hamlet town in upstate NY, super beautiful and pastural but not a ton of creative culture. I grew up with hippy parents who raised my brother and me without tv and video games and so I was immediately an outsider at school. Feeling alienated from my peers is what has driven a lot of my creative pursuits—fueled by the desire to connect.
Years later in college, I got arrested for selling hand-printed shirts in New York City. The news of my arrest ended up getting a lot of publicity, and long story short, led to my first professional creative job as an art director at an ad agency.
A few years later, I quit my full-time job to focus on independent projects and growing my own creative studio.
The concept of ‘balance’ seems to weave its way throughout the projects you run; balancing time on and off social media, communicating digitally vs analogue, etc. As an artist how do you find balance, both personally and professionally? What have been the biggest challenges for you professionally to date?
Balance is a never-ending question and theme in a lot of my work. I think of most of life as a pendulum, veering off too far in one direction, then course correcting in the other, and hopefully with age gets more and more refined.
I’m constantly torn between personal and professional, however what I’ve come to realize is that when you do what you love the two can become mixed. I just did a fun little photoshoot with a friend that satisfied my creative impulses but was also quality time.
Another way I find balance is by limited my time on technology. I’ve blocked my Facebook newsfeed. I put my phone on airplane mode a ton. I don’t really Instagram or Tweet on a regular basis. I’m willing to sacrifice fame for personal contentment.
I also have sat a lot of silent meditation retreats, which you can read about here: 100 Days of Silence: How Doing Nothing Enriched My Life (and Creative Career)
Public speaking and education are clearly very important to you. Looking back what advice would you give yourself in the beginning?
“Be gentle with yourself” is the advice I’d give my younger self. I think we’re all too hard on ourselves. If you’re reading this right now, how can you be more gentle and loving to yourself? That is the best advice I can offer.
Which project of your own has meant the most to you to date and why?
Howard’s Farm was a deeply personal project for me. First of all, it was about a role model from my childhood. Secondly. it was the first documentary short film I made and it got a Vimeo Staff Pick and a bunch of recognition which encouraged me to continue pursuing filmmaking. Howard, the subject, passed away a year after filming and they played the film at his wake which was a deep, deep honor.
Can you talk us through your creative process; how do you typically decide whether a project comes to fruition? How do you filter ideas, develop concepts, typically launch a project?
I struggle to define my creative process because it’s so intuitively baked into how I live my everyday life that I never know where to start.
A few things I’ve come to realise is that my creative process is tied to being hyper-observant and sensitive to my surroundings, then following my intuition and passion when a new idea arises, and viewing everything as a series of experiments, so not being too scared in going off into uncharted territory.
I also try to limit the number of concurrent projects I take on so that nothing lingers for too long. I love a good start date and an end date!
Your work engages with numerous cultural issues, that are often both “real world” and virtual. What issues persistently keep you awake at night? What do you feel are the most pressing issues to the creative industries and more widely, culturally?
I think we as creatives have a responsibility to address culturural issues in our work. It’s what moves culture forward. In the past I’ve been very inspired by both social and political issues including wealth inequality (Occupy George), discrimination of race or nationality (Signs of the Times), freedom of speech (Freedom from Porn), and marriage equality (Hack Marriage), and tech addiction (No-Tech-Zone Signs), to name a few.
Recently, I’m especially interested in tech addiction which to me is largely existential in nature. What’s the purpose of life? How do find happiness? What is the role of faith / grief in modern culture?
Community engagement, and conducting projects that have a community-led emphasis is clearly important to you. With a portfolio and career that is somewhat easily recognisable now, there must be huge temptation to focus upon more commercial work. What drives you to continue to do work that poetically affects, and culturally provokes, and keep creating work that has more community-led focused values?
I am drawn towards creating work that is genuinely impactful. I sincerely want people to feel inspired and connected from my work. This sincerity is often lacking in commercial projects because so many people are making decisions that the final outcome gets ruined.
And for this reason, my independent community projects are often the ones that feel most rewarding.
Does a project such as ‘Snail Mail My Email’ influence how you live and work?
I still deeply value letter writing, it’s such a meaningful and unique way of letting someone know you care about them. Snail Mail My Email was a beautiful reminder of this, but didn’t necessarily influence how I live or work.
What makes OFFSET so special, and stand out for you personally on the festival circuit?
I haven’t yet been so it’s tough to say. I’ve been aware of OFFSET for quite some time. It seems to be one of the largest and best-curated creative festivals in the world. So it’s an honor to not just speak but even attend! And I look forward to traveling in Ireland afterwards!
What are going to be the highlights for you at OFFSET this year and why?
Being inspired, connecting with members of the creative community, hanging out in Ireland for the first time! 🙂
What does the remainder of 2018 look like for you and the studio? What might we expect to see throughout the year?
My studio and I maintain a diverse mix of projects. Ranging from commissioned films, brand campaigns, creative workshops, and independent art projects. You can expect more of these things in 2018, as well as a TEDx talk that will be coming out soon, and a physical product we’ve been developing that will likely launch on Kickstarter in the next few months!